Since Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui proposed his "two states"
formula for ties with the Chinese mainland in July, fissures within
"cultural greater China," which includes ethnically linked Taiwan,
China, and Hong Kong, have deepened.
In the 1980s, Beijing's economic and political liberalization
opened China's doors to long-banned family visits and investment from
Taiwan and Hong Kong. At the time, scholars in all three regions
predicted that the links with a reforming mainland could evolve into
a Democratic Federation of Greater China.
But few Taiwanese now say they support a political union with the
Communist-ruled mainland, and many say Hong Kong's slow-motion loss
of freedom gives them little confidence in Beijing's "one country,
two systems" proposal for reunification.
In seeking to re-create the Chinese Empire, which once stretched
from Hong Kong in the south to Tibet in the west and Taiwan to the
east, Beijing's standing offer to Taiwan is a reunification deal
similar to Hong Kong's. China often matches its "carrot" of autonomy
for Taiwan with the "stick" of threats of an armed invasion if the
island veers toward independence. But neither tactic seems to be
persuading Taiwan to join a Chinese union.
In the closing days of the 1949 Chinese civil war, millions of
mainlanders crowded onto Taiwan-bound ships as the Red Army swept
across China. Most sought a political haven from the excesses of
The defeated Nationalist Party for years ruled Taiwan with an iron
fist. Yet the island has rapidly moved toward democracy in the last
decade, marked by a freewheeling press, open and fair presidential
elections, and legal protections for basic rights modeled after the
"The dictatorship of Taiwan's past is only a distant memory," says
a young filmmaker in Taipei. "Today, we elect our own president, do
whatever we want politically, and speak out on any issue that
interests us," she says."Why should we move backward like Hong Kong
has in order to reunite" with China?
When China recovered Hong Kong two years ago, it promised the
territory that the basic, British-inspired rights of the people would
not be curtailed.
Under the "one country, two systems" formula, China guaranteed
Hong Kong would keep its legal and social autonomy, in effect
protecting the capitalist enclave from Communist rule and a state
takeover of businesses.
But a tightening noose around Hong Kong and periodic military
maneuvers aimed at intimidating Taiwan have delayed if not destroyed
the peaceful creation of a political Greater China.
In the last two years, says Hong Kong human rights activist Frank
Lu, "There has been a steady erosion of both democracy and human
rights." Beijing this summer overturned a decision of Hong Kong's
highest court, calling into question the enclave's judicial